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Pina is an immediate, visceral and transcendent experience


Sunday at 6.30pm at Liberty Theatre

“There are situations of course that leave you utterly speechless. All you can do is hint at things. Words, too, can’t do more than just evoke things. That’s where dance comes in,” explains groundbreaking choreographer Pina Bausch. And it is this thought that forms the crux of filmmaker Wim Wenders’ stunning tribute film ‘Pina’.

The paradox is, of course, that this review can only be comprised of words too; the best it can hope to do is hint, evoke an impression. Dry words cannot truly impart what the dances (and by extension the film itself) signify. The experience is so immediate, visceral and transcendent that it can only exist as itself.

This being said, the words can try. Picture a stage, barren and empty, reflecting a cold, dark glare. Soon it is covered with a warm layer of red earth, from which buds appear and sprout into human forms, sylphlike, delicate creatures, which break free of their roots and scatter in a flurry of wings.

Like starlings, they coalesce, scatter and coalesce again into a pulsating anemone, tendrils withdrawing, reaching, probing, withdrawing. They are all as one, and each separate: their soiled faces are etched with yearning, suffering, striving, hope, as the rhythm intensifies, driving them to toil.

Each creature is alive, breathing hard and loud. There is conflict, there is war, there is desperate, skittish, cruel romance.

There is the inexorable march of the seasons: summer smiles, autumn darkening, winter shivers (brrrrr!), spring relief, (aaaah!), marching, dancing, lightly smile, darker, (brrr!), (aah!), on and on, across the stage, across bridges, over water and hills, time without end.

Among empty chairs and empty tables, two lonely human marionettes fall in love. They embrace, fiercely cling to each other, freeze. The waiter (Time? Fate? Circumstance?) deliberately rearranges them, like a sculptor. Exhausted, they collapse and embrace again, are rearranged again, they collapse, they clutch, they are rearranged, they collapse, clutch, again and again, faster and faster, a whorl of hope and futility, seriousness and absurdity.

A busy junction under a railway bridge. Cars and trains steadily go by on their way to nowhere, faceless, relentless, while two lovers play out a graceful, rhythmic tragedy on a traffic island. But what of the people in the cars, in the trains overhead? Are they not also lovers, playing out similar dramas? No-one is truly faceless.

A few sparse words from the dancers in voice-over, their lips not moving but their lined faces speaking. Thanks to Pina, they dance hope, they dance fear, they dance playfulness and lightness, they dance our burdens. They dance the water, wet hair slicking and merging with their exultant forms.

They dance the air, the boulders, the hills. They dance the shackles of fate, the spectre of mortality. They dance because Pina, their master puppeteer, brought it out of them. Now she is gone. But still the seasons dance, on and on.

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Published March 16, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 16, 2012 at 9:27 am)

Pina is an immediate, visceral and transcendent experience

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